ESPN broke the news on Tuesday afternoon that the Indianapolis Colts and Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning will have a press conference on Wednesday to announce they are parting ways.
Manning leaves Indianapolis with the following statistical distinctions:
- ranks 3rd in NFL history in passing yards (54,828) behind Brett Favre and Dan Marino.
- ranks 3rd in NFL history in touchdown passes (399), again behind Favre and Marino.
- ranks 4th in NFL history in pass attempts (7,210) behind Favre, Marino and John Elway.
- ranks 3rd in NFL history in completions (4,682), behind Favre and Marino.
- ranks 2nd in NFL history in comebacks (35), tied with Elway and behind only Marino (36).
- ranks 2nd in NFL history in game-winning drives (46), behind only Marino.
But more importantly than all of these incredible numbers, Manning defined the Indianapolis Colts. His name has become as iconic with the horseshoe helmet as Johnny Unitas, and no player in his generation meant as much to his team as Manning did.
Now, however, is an extraordinary dynamic in the life of Peyton Manning.
His younger brother, Eli, has more Super Bowl rings than he does. The team he defined for more than a decade is choosing a college kid over him (and his $28M roster bonus). And Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Cam Newton are the headline-grabbing quarterbacks in the league now.
The really devastating part of this story is the brick-to-the-face reminder that professional sports are a business.
If anyone was going to finish their career with only one franchise on their resume, it should have been Manning. Like Marino and Elway, Manning's legacy on and off the field was so tied to the community he became part of when drafted that it's hard to imagine him leaving it.
The elder Manning will now join one of two lists of all-time quarterbacks.
Will he follow in the footsteps of Joe Montana and Favre, leaving the jersey he defined for over a decade a few more quality seasons somewhere else?
Or will he truly follow in the footsteps of Unitas and leave the Colts for a miserable last year or two? Joe Namath and, more recently, Donovan McNabb have seen their great careers disappear like smoke after leaving the teams that drafted them.
The best route for Manning would be signing with the Arizona Cardinals. Manning made his mark in the NFL playing with some great wide receivers in a dome (read: controlled conditions). Arizona was successful with Kurt Warner a couple years ago in an offense that would work with Manning, and Larry Fitzgerald is better than any receiver Manning has played with in Indianapolis.
Here's hoping Manning's neck is OK, and he can give football fans a few more good years of football before calling it a career. He's been as classy as any player in the game over the last 15 years, and the game is better because he's been part of it.